Turning octogenarian in a few months, Kolakaluri Enoch, an academic giant of Telugu literature, has not been declared any earlier, for the coveted distinction of Sahitya Akademi Award for demonstrated talent in the field of literature. The National awards list for 2018, had gone in favour of Enoch, for Vimarshini, a book of literary essays. The jury who made the decision include Devipriya, Nalimela Bhaskar and Papineni Sivasankar, recognised litterateurs with decades of experience and works to their credit. 

Coming to the case of Dr Kolakaluri Enoch, whose 60 years of literary output covers not just a wide range of short stories, novels, plays, poetry, translations, but essays on literary criticism too. Only in Gujarati and Telugu, the genre of essays was chosen for the honour. The Akademi maintained the award for literary criticism separately, and writers from Kannada, Marathi and Odiya bagged the distinction for this genre. In calling them essays, perhaps Akademi made a line that these essays are informative on a broad-based approach, however, a literary essay without the content of critical observations on the subject will be struggling to stand in the reckoning for the honour of this stature. 

Enoch, to his credit, has penned down thirteen different books on literary criticism dealing with different genres, texts, including one in English viz. The principles of modern literary criticism, in 1999. His books on Telugu literary criticism containing essays are Telugu Vyasalu, Sahityadarshini, Sahitya Sandarshanam, Samikshanam, Samiksha Sahityam, Pithika Sahityam, Telugu Kathanika Parinamam, Chinni Kathala Vennela, Telugu Navala Vikasam, Sahitya Prayojanam, Shudrakavi Shubhamurthi Vasucharitra Vaisisthyam and Vimarshini, which has been chosen for the award this year. 

Enoch had a proverbial past that links him to the genre of Essay. In his career, half-century back, in 1968, he did his PhD work on the ‘Genesis of Literary Essay’ (Telugu Vyasa Parinaamam). In this six-hundred page plus dissertation, youthful Enoch had identified the status of Telugu Literary Essay, which by then had an half century of continuous record, that Telugu literary essay, is more based on the emotional quotient of the heart, and somewhat less from the cerebral domains, and suggested that a balance of this approach will gift the society with a very responsible social product, i.e. a literary essay. 

‘Vimarshini’, the award-winning book contains essays on the genre of short story, and novel as well. Benchmarking the function of a literary critic a few tiers above the function of a creator or writer of fiction, Enoch rates the creative writing very original and valuable, but cautions the function of a critic in placing the text in time and social context, is a more crucial, and open-minded function, a critic has to fulfil. This vision, the young Enoch recorded half a century back, had seen his astounding output of literary essays dealing with critical perspective, in regulated phases, amounting to 13 books, in a long career as a writer. 

In this journey as a critic and an essayist of social aspects, Enoch post-independence, perhaps stands as a significant contributor to the genre of Telugu literary essay. Dwelling on the critical studies of folk literature dedicated to his mentor Korada Mahadeva Sastry, Enoch had emerged as a profound essayist with critical outlook, in all these decades. A writer who received many accolades in India, and Padmasri also from Union Government, he rose from grassroots to greatness. In all his writings he stands by the constitutional spirit of equal status to all citizens, and as a responsible citizen of the Republic, who had born two decades before the Republic came into force, Enoch, the Octogenarian writer is a true voice of India, for the harmonious growth, which should touch the lives of the citizens of this Indian Republic. 

In his fiction, and in his straight focused literary essays endowed with a critical perspective; Enoch developed a liberal humanistic outlook, which compels even the hard-headed orthodox to think twice, about the foolhardiness of the society. For the awakening millions, Enoch remains a sane voice of wisdom, and his literature is a sheet anchor for the down to earth common folks of this vast country. This award, high lights the importance of social justice, and equal dispensation of opportunities to the marginalised sections of the society, as their just right. In that direction, Kolakaluri Enoch’s clarion call is hard to ignore, and that fact is underlined humbly by the august body of letters, of the land. 

Rama Teertha – The writer is a bi-lingual writer, translator, critic, columnist and an orator

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